Children of Substance-Abusing Parents: Dynamics and Treatment, edited by Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner and Christine Huff Fewell, Springer Publishing Company, New York, 2011, 288 pages, $41.66.
This thorough and elegantly written book is a must-read for anyone who is involved with or teaches in the area of children of substance abusing parents. The book is divided into three parts that take the reader from an overview of the existing knowledge about children of substance abusing parents, to treatment issues in clinical settings, to possible interventions for these children. Although they remain “children” of substance abusing parents, the book delineates their story from newborns to adults. These 13 chapters are not simply well suited for academic audiences, but are also heartfelt and emotionally loaded for any interested reader. As one perceives the chaos, the problems, the tremendously difficult issues, and the consequences to their lives, one cannot help but feel outraged and heartbroken from the stories, shocked by the statistics, and compelled to do something for this population.
The reader becomes familiar with the dynamics of children of substance abusing parents and their chaotic attachment patterns in the first chapters. Once this background is established, one learns about the types of treatments that exist and their challenges. A number of treatments are discussed: from early interventions in alcohol and tobacco use by pregnant women, to evidence-based programs targeting children, to intervention strategies for adolescents and psychodrama as a form of intervention for adults who have grown up with substance abusing parents.
Psychodrama allows the body and the emotional memory to emerge through action and role-play, allowing adults to resolve previous conflicting situations in their lives. This type of therapy is well depicted in chapter seven. Other types of interventions and implications for social workers are further discussed in the third part of the book. Finally, issues of children of parents incarcerated for substance abuse are described, and practice implications are laid out for this extremely sensitive population. The book ends with five case studies that wonderfully weave together and illustrate all the discussions in previous chapters. These five personal stories are heartwarming and make the entire book come alive.
I was positively impressed with the great emphasis on the social environment and its influences on children of substance abusing parents throughout these chapters. One can clearly notice how many emotional and behavioral problems of children are deeply rooted in family settings. Therefore, by preventing or intervening at the right time, social workers can and should make a crucial difference in the lives of these children. I wholeheartedly applaud the researchers who contributed to this collection and the editors who skillfully put this comprehensive book together.
Reviewed by Bora Pajo, Ph.D., M.A., Assistant Professor, Mercyhurst University, Sociology and Social Work Department.